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Math Science

Amazonian Tribe Has No Word To Express Numbers 482

In 2004 we discussed the Piraha, a tribe in the Amazon, when a study appeared characterizing their language as a "one, two, many" language. Now reader mu22le informs us of a new study of the Piraha pointing to the possibility that they use no number words at all. Instead they seem to use the word formerly thought to mean "two" to represent a quantity of 5 or 6, and the "one" word for anything from 1 to 4. The language has about 300 native speakers. "The study... offers evidence that number words are a concept invented by human cultures as they are needed, and not an inherent part of language, Gibson said."
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Amazonian Tribe Has No Word To Express Numbers

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  • by mrbluze ( 1034940 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:09AM (#24179499) Journal
    Has no word to express.. uhhmm... forgot what it's called now.
    • Not surprising. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) <> on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:35AM (#24180315) Homepage
      Quote from the story: "They could learn, but it's not useful in their culture, so they've never picked it up."

      The English language has no word for some Amazon insects. English speakers could learn, but it's not useful in their cultures.

      Two tests: Give the Amazon natives sufficient food and water and safety from other people, and see how long they can comfortably survive in lands where English is spoken.

      Then give native English speakers sufficient food and water and safety from other people, and see how long they can comfortably survive in the Amazon region.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by phasm42 ( 588479 )

        Two tests: Give the Amazon natives sufficient food and water and safety from other people, and see how long they can comfortably survive in lands where English is spoken.

        Then give native English speakers sufficient food and water and safety from other people, and see how long they can comfortably survive in the Amazon region.

        All this really says is that we have higher living standards.

      • by mrbluze ( 1034940 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:40AM (#24180353) Journal
        Do we get to choose which particular English speakers we send there? I've started a list already (*mumblegrumble!@$Fskn*motherinlaw*).
      • by Nerdposeur ( 910128 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @10:31AM (#24181021) Journal

        Two tests: Give the Amazon natives sufficient food and water and safety from other people, and see how long they can comfortably survive in lands where English is spoken.
        Then give native English speakers sufficient food and water and safety from other people, and see how long they can comfortably survive in the Amazon region.

        If you're trying to show that Amazonians aren't inferior to us, I agree. If you're trying to show that they're superior, I disagree.

        Each of us knows what we need to know. Getting "food and water and safety" is the primary task of every individual in a society like that, and you betcha they know a lot about it. We live in a very very specialized society, where a person can spend his whole career getting letters and numbers to appear on a screen correctly and never know where his food comes from.

        Trying to get a programmer to live as an Amazonian is more hazardous than trying to get an Amazonian to live as a programmer, precisely because most of the Amazonian's "job" is "try to stay alive." And it is very hard - I'm sure their life expectancies are shorter than ours. If syntax errors made computers explode into shrapnel, it would be more even.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) *

        If the Amazonian gets food and water and safety in the city, why doesn't the city guy get those in the Amazon?

        How about this? Don't give either one anything. I suspect success would be pretty similar for both.

        Some city guys would eat something poisonous, drink some impure water without boiling it (and die of dehydration from dysentery), or die of exposure. But also, some city guys would figure out how to rig themselves a shelter, observe where the animals are drinking and remember that he probably should

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:59AM (#24180567)

      1-4. Sell tribe new number words
      5-6. ....
      ???. Profit?

    • by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @10:01AM (#24180601) Journal
      So they're one ahead of your average /. reader, who can only count to two. One. Two. One and two. Two two's. Two two's and one....

      I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. For further reading see Terry Pratchett's "Men At Arms".
  • by pimpimpim ( 811140 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:13AM (#24179519)
    ??? Have no words for numbers
    ??? Profit!
  • Hm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by archeopterix ( 594938 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:14AM (#24179533) Journal

    The language has about 300 native speakers.

    Shouldn't it be "a large number, but not five or six" speakers?

  • Few, many, Lots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom90deg ( 1190691 ) <> on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:15AM (#24179543) Homepage

    Seems that what they're calling "Numbers" are the same as our quantity descriptors. Small number, medium number, and large number. Seems reasonable, I'm no anthropologist, but I think that numbers really start when you have a lot of trade going on, when you have to KNOW that 5 ears of corn is worth 1 basket of peas.

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:16AM (#24179547)
    society's that use currency/money, rather than hunter/gatherers...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:42AM (#24179783)

      IAAHTNL (I am a highly trained ninja linguist) and I'd just like to say that Piraha is quite alien in general. From the point of view of the Piraha, all other human languages, whether spoken by city-dwellers or nomads, are pretty much the same.

      That is, they MIGHT say that, if Piraha culture had any use for abstract concepts and stuff they couldn't see.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mblase ( 200735 )

      Without a doubt. However, hunter/gatherers still need a certain ability to count -- for instance, does my tribe have more fighters than the enemy tribe right in front of me? Or, are all my children here or is one missing?

      It's actual mathematics and arithmetic that had to be invented, and yes, they were developed first for purposes of commerce. It's still interesting that this particular language has (or may have) no distinct words for the quantities one, two and three, which previously were believed to be t

    • I'm not sure, though (Score:4, Informative)

      by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @12:13PM (#24182461) Journal

      Actually, I'm not so sure about that. Why currency?

      1. Point in case: Ancient Egypt. I'm pretty sure that they had numbers and even maths, _long_ before they used currency.

      It's a funny thing. We're so caught up in our own obsession with money, that we assume that it must have always been the alpha and the omega, or at least a major economic breakthrough. Well, Egypt used barter internally until the conquering Romans forced them to use coins, and nevertheless they were for a long while the most powerful economy.

      Oh, they learned about coins earlier from the Greeks and Phoenicians, and even started minting their own gold into coins for external trade. But even that was long after they had numbers. But internally they still used barter and didn't seem worse off for it.

      Thinking about it in modern terms, it must have fulfilled the same role as inflation nowadays. If your grain is your currency, you can't hoard it for generation, because it decays. The Pharaoh's granaries functioned as a sort of bank: they'd keep it for you, but you earned a -10% (yes, _minus_ ten percent) "interest" per year. Building your own granaries did somewhat better, but not by awfully much. So there was a very good reason to spend or invest that "money" instead. And unsurprisingly their economy included extensive trading and extensive crafts.

      Or as another example, I don't remember coins being mentioned in Hamurabi's code of laws (from a bit over 4 millenia ago), but they already had numbers all right.

      2. I'd argue that, actually, you start needing numbers much earlier anyway, when you switch to agriculture or animal husbandry.

      For a shepherd there's a very good reason to know if you have 20 sheep (or goats, or whatever) or 21.

      For an agricultor, you have to count days. Or the high priests count it for you, same deal. Think, for example, cultivating in the Nile's valley. It will take you X days to harvest all those crops. If you start later than X days before the next flood, then some of your crop will be lost. You also need to be able to reserve Y buckets/barrels/sacks/whatever of grain for sowing the next crop, or you will starve next year. I'd say there's a damn good reason to be able to count those.

      And in either case if you counted the days wrong until the next crop, or the next sheep are born, you might get to starve.

      It's events that happen long before you even need currency.

      3. Even if you managed to avoid #2 somehow, numbers soon get you anyway: Any kind of more complex state than a 300 people tribe, starts needing numbers just to exist at all.

      E.g., you have to raise an army. How many soldiers do you have? How much food do you need to take with you on a campaign? How many ships do you need to carry them? How many weapons do you need to build for them? How many smiths do you need for that?

      Let's say you even don't use a professional standing army like post-marian Rome or Egypt, but go with citizen-soldiers like early Rome or Greece. Well, those guys need to get back to their farm when time comes to sow or reap. It doesn't matter what kind of food source you have. Even hunter-gatherers need to spend X days a year hunting and gathering. They need to be there when the good berries are ripe, or when the great Perfectly Normal Beast migration comes by. So you're back to counting days anyway, or you can't have any kind of warfare.

      E.g., so you conquered the next city and installed your own nomarch/satrap/governor, loyal to you. How much tribute does it send you? How do you know how many more days you need to wait for it?

  • fantastic (Score:5, Funny)

    by jacquesm ( 154384 ) < minus physicist> on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:17AM (#24179565) Homepage

    then there's also no way to collect taxes. I should move...

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:22AM (#24179599)

    When numbers play no role because what you need is either abundant or nonexistant, i.e. "there" or "not there", you have no need to invent a word for it. What matters is whether there is enough or not enough. And appearantly the "a little" "a little more" "much more" separation works sufficiently.

    The best example is the omnipresent claim that Inuit have dozens of words for snow. Or Ferengi having a few for rain, but none for "crunchy". What matters is the context you're living in. I dare say that the need for numbers stems either from the needs of trade, administration or simply the urge to show off. And even for that, the basic system of "one, few, many" works out quite ok until the system and your "tribe" reaches a certain size.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rohan972 ( 880586 )
      Possibly also for agriculture, counting time for seasons (although seasonal changes are probably enough for simple agricultural systems) and harsher climates, counting stores of food to be sure they will last through the winter.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:37AM (#24179739)

        But it seems like they have that to some extent. If they have a "range" that indicates small/medium/large, then they're still counting. They just don't have a word for the specific total.

        If they know that "this many" units of food was enough to feed them last time, then "this many" units of food will likely serve that purpose next time.

        If the size of the group grows, then they need "this many" plus "some more". And that "some more" will then be wrapped into "this many" the following year.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:34AM (#24179715)
    • The best example is the omnipresent claim that Inuit have dozens of words for snow.

      Actually, that's not a very good example at all. The main reason people say that is because Inuit is a polysynthetic language, which blurs the line between word and sentence.

      You also have to consider that the guy who made the claim actually used as his examples any reference to frozen water in the language...even if it really didn't refer to the powdery white stuff. If he didn't know English, and were making a similar claim, he'd say that at least ice, sleet, hail, snow, blizzard, and glacier are all words for snow.

      Sometimes, even if you interact with it a lot, one word is enough. Sometimes, also, context plays a big part in defining the language, so you don't need as many words to convey the message (and this is *absolutely true* of a polysynthetic language).

      Quite frankly, I have seen no conclusive evidence that quantity or quality of words are directly tied to the cultures from which they come. Sometimes a word will come into existence when there is little need (example: defenestration), and sometimes people will *badly* adapt an existing word to mean something new rather than creating a new, better word to fill the gap (example: usages of the word "perfect" in different domains). This tribe may be different, but that might make them the exception, rather than the rule.

  • by mongoose(!no) ( 719125 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:24AM (#24179621)
    How do they express IP addresses?
  • Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by dudeinthedark ( 1254508 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:25AM (#24179627)
    How do they indicate successful termination of their C programs?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:28AM (#24179661)

    So, I grew up on a Bushveld Farm in Africa.

    And, as one does on farms in the raw, one must maintain a system of control... over baboons.

    Experience taught the farmers how to deal with baboons, as a necessity towards having a harvest- baboons are quite destructive you see.

    The first method is by catching one using the 'pumpkin' trick. Quite easy:
    Tie down a pumkin, make a hole in it just big enough for a baboon hand to slip in and wait.
    The baboon will come along and stick his hand into the pumpkin, grab a handful and then try to remove his hand... but as an empty hand can go in, the clenched fist cannot get out... baboon does not want to let go... and is therefore stuck. Then you paint the fellow white, and let it go. The returning baboon will scare the living daylights out of his tribe and they will disappear for a while.

    The other method... well... shoot a couple and the farm will be avoided for a LONG time.

    It is not as easy as one would think to hunt baboons, firstly, as they have very effective watch..err.. watchmen (Bobejaan-brandwag) who will sound the alarm as soon as they spot people with guns. The trick is as follows (works for Maize fields):

    If one man walks into the field, and hides, the baboons stay away.
    If two goes in, and one comes out, they stay away.
    If three goes in and two comes out... they stay away...
    But if four goes in and three comes out... they seem to think that many went in and many left... all right to plunder. (ok, know it should be 'feed', but we live in a relative universe!)

    We used to tease and say "1-2-many" is how baboons count. So, imagine my puzzlement when I saw that there are... well... humans living by a similar system!

    Here we are wielding the Power of the Universe (maths) as if it is nothing... and others are still learning how to count!

    Probably our ability and need to express numbers came from... capitalism :-)

    Dammit... finding 'good' in capitalism is painful!
    Completely clashes with my view utopian socialism :-(

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by loafula ( 1080631 )
      That was one of the most interesting posts I've read in a while. Thank you!
    • by Per Wigren ( 5315 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:14AM (#24180053) Homepage

      We used to tease and say "1-2-many" is how baboons count

      Maybe they are good at relational database modeling then!

    • If I might come in with a computing/neural perspective...

      I think that baboons counting 1/2/many is an indicator of the difficulties with bioneural networks: As fundamentally analog systems, they can't subdivide values finely and retain accuracy for any length of time. Thus, they can store 0/2, 1/2 and 2/2 over time, but for more than that they just set an "overflow bit:" there's a lot of 'em.

      You can observe the same thing in humans. Look at your mouse cursor, right now - is it on the left or right half of the screen? Obvious. Which third? Easy enough. Which fourth? A little harder. You couldn't really tell me which tenth it's on without measuring. It gets really difficult because your brain's analog systems have difficulty accurately dividing something up that finely.

      From that perspective, I think that counting (which implies an increasingly accurate absolute reference for "one" as the max rises) was something born of necessity, because brains are bad at absolute comparisons. They're really good at comparing short-term differentials (there's an edge here, this texture is different, there are more hunters now than immediately before), but they drift almost without bound over time - thus the baboon's arithmetic fudges that "many - many = zero." It's great for adaptability, but bad for being able to hold more than a few single-digit numbers in your head.
      • by anonymousbob22 ( 1320281 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:48AM (#24180443)
        What also may be happening here is the baboon sees it as "a group of people goes in" and "a group of people goes out". one - one = zero. It's a reasonable assumption to make that the group would stay together rather than split up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by brahmix ( 858155 )
        well said! That is why I believe stupidity is simply floating point errors caused by limited cache: This will obviously result in variance of constants :-) To put the whole thing into an analog accuracy befudgement argument just sounds cleverererrreder...
    • by 19061969 ( 939279 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @10:24AM (#24180901)
      An extremely interesting post. If I had mod points left, I would give you some.

      I saw something similar on TV a while ago. Some African hunters needing water would do this trick only using a small hole between some large rocks. The baboon would be captured because they wouldn't want to release the stone before the man got hold of them. The man would then tie up the baboon and feed it salt until the baboon was incredibly thirsty. Then, with the baboon on a leash, the man would untie it and the creature would go straight to the nearest place with water which baboons would not normally do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:29AM (#24179663)

    It is a general property of people that the most objects they can generally count in a single glance is around 5. The most things a typical person can easily remember in the short term is seven.

    Maybe the "one" word means "I can easily commit the scene to memory at a glance", meaning that the scene has a few easily remembered objects in it.

    The "two" word might mean "yes I can remember that scene, but I have to concentrate to do it". Typically that would mean the scene has 5-6 items.

    The "many" word might mean "no I cannot easily remember the number and arrangement of objects in that scene"

    In other words the word used depends on the mental effort required.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by potpie ( 706881 )
      You didn't RTFA. The 1, 2, many system is prevalent in other cultures that have been studied, but the Piraha are unique in that they have only 2 words for counting. However, the text is wrong in saying that they convey ranges of numbers. The best way to think of these two words is "relatively a little" and "relatively more." Therefore they can be used with discrete as well as continuous quantities, and their use is highly sensitive to the context of the situation, similar to how in English you would say
  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:29AM (#24179667) Homepage

    The previous study had the same basic flaw: they asked the Piraha to count objects that they never normally had to deal with (it was batteries, I think).

    What westerners often forget is that many cultures have different numbering systems for different types of things.

    If they asked instead, "how many children do you have", or "how many people are there in that hut", they would most likely discover (shock! horror!) that the Piraha count people exactly as you or I. (If we know the individuals we can count up to 10 or so, if we don't, we count up to five or six, then switch to "many").

    These experiments look designed to prove something bogus, namely that counting is not an innate skill.

    • by taubz ( 322102 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:41AM (#24179769) Homepage

      As I recall (I was at a talk by one of the principal investigators), the flaws were not so obvious as to use batteries. I think they might have even asked them to count their own family members. If anything it was probably not what was counted but the task of counting which might have been both unfamiliar and potentially culturally sensitive.

      But there are other interesting things (claimed) about their language besides a lack of numbers that makes it less surprising that this might also be the case. There was very little recursive structure in the syntax, for instance.

      • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:52AM (#24180489) Homepage
        With only 300 people, they're probably all closely related, which explains why they might have trouble counting family members. It also explains why they have a word for "5 or 6", doubtless used for fingers and toes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Another problem with this kind of research is that people do not always answer questions about their native language correctly. When asked "how does one say X?" they will often answer "You can't say X." They will get hung up on the mode of expression and lose sight of the idea being expressed.

        For example, there is a Russian stand-up comic (whose name I have forgoten) who does a routine about his visit to the USA. He cites the interesting fact that the English language has no word for "soul". How did he

    • If they asked instead, "how many children do you have", or "how many people are there in that hut", they would most likely

      ... hear as the reply:

      "None of your god-damn business, you pesky anthropologist ... now get your ass out of my rain forest!"

    • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @10:49AM (#24181297) Journal

      "Boopai, the white men are coming. Remind the six Kaaxai sisters that it is forbidden to utter our sacred number words in front of the outsiders."
      "Yes, Pibaoi, I shall tell them. I will return in 36 minutes, approximately 5 minutes before the outsiders reach the village."
      "Good man, Boopai."

      "Oh, and Boopai, while you are there, get the 113 exchange-beads the sisters owe me from 3 months ago."
      "Yes, Pibaoi, I will."

    • by potpie ( 706881 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @01:17PM (#24183361) Journal
      You vastly underestimate the "study." There is a researcher named Daniel Everett who has been studying the Piraha for years. He is fluent in their language and has written about them for a long time. This is not the result of a single "experiment," but merely a peek into what researchers have been studying for over 20 years.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sv0f ( 197289 )

        What he said.

        Also, I was at a talk where someone asked Gibson if the Piraha count their children. Gibson asked the man if he was a father. The man said no. Gibson said that people don't generally refer to their children by number, but by name. Everyone laughed.

  • by Von Helmet ( 727753 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:31AM (#24179691)

    Should be "one, two, many" []

    KDawson, you got a link to your own website wrong, on your own website. You n00b.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:32AM (#24179703)

    I heard they have discovered that some ancient tribes in the world are still using imperial measurement. Hard to believe!

  • by codekavi ( 459992 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:35AM (#24179731) Homepage

    A side note: Sanskrit [] has singular, dual and plural [] forms of words. A lot of i18n infrastructure could get broken if this language got back to life all of a sudden.

    Example: boy, (two boys), (more than two boys) === baalakah [](1), baalakau [](2), baalakaah [](2+)

    This Slashdot ignored non ascii when I previewed this, so added the google search results for the devanagari [] characters used to compose these three words instead.

    I'm guessing the need arose as a shorthand to talk about two's - eg two people, two oxen working in the form, two feet, two hands and so on.

    Anyone know of any other language tha has dual forms of words?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jedrek ( 79264 )

      Polish, which is quite a modern and used language (40 million native speakers) uses a similar construction:

      1 olowek
      2 olowki
      5 olowkow

      (polish letters dropped because /. is obviously menarded. how the fuck can you not use utf-8 in 2008?)

  • by eebra82 ( 907996 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:48AM (#24179811) Homepage
    I'm gonna have one girlfriend there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:54AM (#24179847)

    Instead they seem to use the word formerly thought to mean "two" to represent a quantity of 5 or 6, and the "one" word for anything from 1 to 4.

    Bartenders and police officers in the US dealing with drunks are very familiar with this method of counting.

  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:56AM (#24179871) Journal

    the "one" word for anything from 1 to 4. The language has about 300 native speakers.

    Anyone want to try and estimate the error on that?

  • Margret Mead, again? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gentlemen_loser ( 817960 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:25AM (#24180185) Homepage
    As an (undergraduate) trained anthropologist, I am always skeptical of announcements like this. The locals may have skewed Margret Mead's research for her book Coming of Age in Samoa (a very well respected and renowned anthropologist): []

    Additionally, we also have the Eskimo/words for snowflake issue: []

    The truth is that accurately studying other cultures is difficult. I have not read the original journal article, but I would take this with a grain of salt.
    • Hold it right there, cowboy. This is a perfectly legitimate study, and not the first one either (although the first one on numbers in Piraha). I know Ted Gibson and I can assure you he's a respectable scientist. Do you really think the reviewers of the article (it has been published in a very decent journal, actually) would not have caught an obvious fraud?

  • by straponego ( 521991 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:26AM (#24180201)
    (in Piraha)
  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kellyb9 ( 954229 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:40AM (#24180367)
    I also find it interesting that Romans had no expression for the number zero.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @10:03AM (#24180629)

      The latin language does have a word "nulla" for zero/nothing was used in numeric context.

      I think you mean that the roman numeral system doesn't use a zero digit, but this wasn't becuase they had no concept of zero, it was because their numeric system didn't need it. Zero's are only needed in a system such as our where digit value is context specific (i.e. the "1" in "100" means something different than the "1" in "10") - the roman numeric system doesn't work this way.

  • Polygamy? (Score:4, Funny)

    by gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @10:18AM (#24180807)

    So, being single, married, and a polygamist is all the same?

  • May I Say (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @10:32AM (#24181037) Homepage

    "The study... offers evidence that number words are a concept invented by human cultures as they are needed, and not an inherent part of language, Gibson said."

    As a mathematician, may I say... "duh".

    If you look in our own culture at the evolution of our number system, and the sequential invention of counting numbers > integers > rational numbers > real numbers > complex numbers > etc., it follows the exact same progression.

  • by Mark_in_Brazil ( 537925 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @11:54AM (#24182231)
    Lord Blackadder, a favorite in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, teaches the foul-smelling peasant Baldrick mathematics:

    The lesson []


    Blackadder: Right, Baldrick, let's try again, shall we? This is called adding. If I have two beans, and then I add two more beans, what do I have?
    Baldrick: Some beans.
    Blackadder: Yes...and no. Let's try again, shall we? I have two beans, then I add two more beans. What does that make?
    Baldrick: A very small casserole.
    Blackadder: Baldrick, the ape creatures of the Indus have mastered this. Now try again. One, two, three, four. So how many are there?
    Baldrick: Three
    Blackadder: What?
    Baldrick: And that one.
    Blackadder: Three and that one. So if I add that one to the three what will I have?
    Baldrick: Oh! Some beans.
    Blackadder: Yes. To you Baldrick, the Renaissance was just something that happened to other people wasn't it?
  • by pugugly ( 152978 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @05:24PM (#24187673)

    Or so they tell us . . .

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"